Celebrating the Bible

A season of rest: Some of you have noticed that I have not been writing for the last couple of months. Some of you have not missed a thing. I decided in June that I needed a rest for writing in this forum. I would take July and August There has been much happening in my life and I felt I needed a season of rest from public rumination. I have missed writing however. There were a couple of times in the summer when I felt the need to hit the keyboard, but I knew that it would be a one off and not sustainable as a daily or several day a week discipline and I therefore resisted the temptation to start blogging before September.

But I am back. And tonight I have the Bible on my mind; specifically the King James Version of the Bible. This year the KJV of the Holy Scripture is 400 years old. 400 years is a good cause to celebrate. So the folks at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria have planned a celebration that will see the entire Bible read over a 5 day period – September 19 – September 24. Now that is a powerful way to celebrate the birth of this book If you are going to be in Victoria over the course of that week please stop by and bear witness to history. .

Postmedia News writes about this wonderful celebration and you can read about it by clicking here. The article notes that when the book was printed in 1611 “…it contained not only the newly received word of God to English Protestants in 1611 but some of the most poetic, inspirational yet down-to-earth language ever put to paper. And ever since, the KJV has fascinated believers and non-believers alike.” This is true. The book has given us a wonderful group of expressions including “in the twinkling of an eye,” “fly in the ointment,” and “eat, drink, and be merry.” These and many more are expressions that we use yet today.

The KJV of the Bible has withstood the test of time. While it is not the ‘best’ translation it is the most beautiful and most poetic. We rarely read it in public worship any longer as it is difficult for some to read, and some of the language used no longer reflects who we are. Language is fluid. It changes. Many would not understand much of the KJV of the Bible, particularly newcomers to our story. That being said, it is a translation that has served God’s people well and still serves God’s people with purpose. Those of us who have around for a while and who have heard our story told and retold may still prefer to read or hear some of those old, familiar words. For instance there is the story of Simeon and Anna in the temple who had been blessed to see the infant Jesus for whom Simeon waited because of the promise made to him that he would see the Messiah before his death. His response as I remember hearing it at every service of evening prayer as a child was: “Lord now lettest thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.” When I read those words in other translations, they seem less than fulsome to me because they pale over and against the poetry and beauty of the language of the KJV that I grew up on. Something seems lost to me in reading29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace…” All of that sentimentality I feel toward the JLV reading of that text may be nothing more than familiarity. I have never been one to advocate for a return to the days of using the KJV, I am simply acknowledging the great-grandmother’s place in our history and the important role that she played. As surely as we celebrate the gifts that we have received from our ancestors, we need to celebrate the gifts of biblical translations that proceeded what we enjoy today. The scholarly work that went into bringing the KJV to life has instructed generations of scholars who have since delved into biblical texts in their original languages to give us many translations that have been useful to people all over the planet who have come to know God through the word in whatever manifestation of the Bible they have read. The worker bees of 1611 wanted to put the word in the hands of the people in the vernacular in order that they would understand. That spirit prevails today. It is the same spirit that drives those producing the Common English Bible today. With 400 years between us and those scholars of old, we can now celebrate what they accomplished then and are still accomplishing today. They story of Jesus, is a powerful story and putting it in the hands of people in a language which can be understood and that resonates with the people can and will have a profound and powerful impact.

I am so pleased that Christ Church cathedral is hosting this Bibleathon and that so many are taking part in reading the 300 reading slots. It is a fitting way to celebrate a great gift to the church. It is also a great event to raise interest in the Bible itself. Let us celebrate the Bible, in whatever version we like best…while we do that let us remember the great-grandmother to them all and celebrate her gift to us.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

2 thoughts on “Celebrating the Bible

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  1. I do remember fondly singing the Nunc Dimittus at Evensong, as a choirboy 65 years ago. .Thanks for bringing those words back to my memory

  2. You brought tears to my eyes as you recognized the role of great grandmothers in this world. “I am simply acknowledging the great-grandmother’s place in our history and the important role that she played.” Thank you for being at our grandson’s funeral on the day that you wrote this.
    Heather Beveridge

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